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Nintendo’s Rebooting the NES; These Are the Games You Should Play First

Ringer illustration
Ringer illustration

For years, gamers have been clamoring to play Nintendo games without having to shell out hundreds of dollars to buy a new Nintendo system. Finally, you will be able to do just that — by buying an old Nintendo system.

The gaming industry’s wizened, quirky uncle is launching a new version of its iconic Nintendo Entertainment System this November, dubbed the NES Classic Edition. The original NES was a living room staple nestled under CRTs worldwide in the 1980s, but the new, palm-size version comes complete with an HDMI port to connect to your flat-screen, an AC adapter, and a controller modeled after the original system’s, for $59.99. The controller will even hook up to your Wii, if you care to dig it out of your attic, or the Wii U, if you’re a masochist.

Nintendo is actually years late to the retro-games-in-a-box phenomenon. Sega has offered a similar miniaturized version of its Genesis console for years. And many a ’90s kid remembers the sinking disappointment of unwrapping a “108 Arcade Games in One!!” device, complete with bright red joystick, that your dad clearly got from Big Lots on Christmas Eve. Where the hell is Mario? You quietly sulked while muttering a halfhearted thanks. Now, he’s finally here.

With its Wii U failing to compete with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and its 3DS struggling to match the exemplary sales of the company’s past handhelds, Nintendo is getting a lot more creative in dreaming up ways to make money. The company has plans to launch a theme park, and it wants to license its world-famous gaming properties in films. Nintendo has also begun experimenting with developing mobile games — you may have heard of a recent one.

Here’s hoping we’ll see other classic Nintendo consoles refreshed in a similar way. The company has already emulated much of its classic library for the Wii, Wii U, and 3DS. Squeezing the kit needed to run Super Metroid on the Super NES into a pint-size box isn’t a stretch, especially when the similarly powered Genesis has been available in that form factor for years.

But for now, we’ll take what we can get. The ecosystem for Nintendo games is expanding beyond traditional consoles and handhelds, and that’s great. The new NES comes loaded with 30 games complete with save states (no more notebooks full of passwords!). The Ringer staff had a vote to devise power rankings for this nostalgia-ready lineup, based on minutes of careful analysis and vague childhood recollections of The Wizard. May this list guide you in deciding which classic title to boot up first after you snag your next-gen NES.

1. Super Mario Bros. 3

2. The Legend of Zelda

3. Punch-Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream

4. Metroid

5. Super Mario Bros.

6. Mega Man 2

7. Zelda II: The Adventures of Link

T8. Tecmo Bowl

T8. Castlevania

10. Double Dragon II: The Revenge

11. Super C

12. Kid Icarus

T13. Pac-Man

T13. Excitebike

15. Final Fantasy

T16. Donkey Kong Jr.

T16. Ninja Gaiden

T16. Dr. Mario

19. Super Mario Bros. 2

20. Galaga

T21. Balloon Fight

T21. Donkey Kong

T21. Gradius

24. Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest

25. Ice Climber

T26. Bubble Bobble

T26. Kirby’s Adventure

28. StarTropics

29. Mario Bros.

30. Ghosts ‘n Goblins